114 B. POLEVOI that would be to his mother, who had lost her other sons at the front and was waiting for him, her last son, to return! Such were the thoughts that ran through his mind as he lay amidst the sad, oppressive silence of the ward, listening to the angry twang of the mattress springs under Kukushkin's restless body, to the sighs of the silent tankman, and to Stepan Ivanovich, bent almost double, standing at the window, where he spent most of the day, drumming his fingers on the window-pane. "Amputate? No! Anything but that! Far better to die___What a cold, frightful word: 'amputate'—sounds like a dagger thrust. Amputate? Never! That must not be!" thought Alexei. He dreamed of this frightful word in the shape of a great steel spider, tearing at his flesh with sharp, crooked claws. For a week the inmates of number forty-two lived four in the ward. But one day Klavdia Mikhailovna, looking worried, came in accompanied by two orderlies, and told them that they would have to squeeze up a little. Stepan Ivanovich's bed was shifted right up to the window, to his great delight. Kukushkin's bed was shifted into the corner next to Stepan Ivanovich's, and in its place was put a nice, low bed with a soft spring mattress. Kukushkin flew into a fit of rage at this. His face turned pale, he banged his fist on his bedside cupboard and in a high, squeaky voice abused the nurse, the hospital and even Vasily Vasilyevich, threatened to complain to somebody or other, and let himself go to such an extent that he nearly threw a mug at poor Klavdia Mikhailovna, and would have done so had not Alexei, his gypsy eyes flashing fiercely, pulled him up with a stern ejacula- tion. Just at that moment the fifth patient was brought in. He must have been of great weight, for the stretcher creaked and bent heavily in rhythm with the footsteps of the stretcher-bearers. A round, clean-shaven head rolled helplessly from side to side on the pillow. The broad, bloated, waxen face seemed lifeless. The full, pale lips bore a fixed expression of suffering.